Bad Reporting

This story bugs me. From this ABC news report (dated 7/20/2012, emphasis mine):

A California woman who identified herself as the mother of James Holmes, the 24-year-old man federal authorities said is the suspect in a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, told ABC News her son was likely the alleged culprit, saying, “You have the right person.”

The woman, contacted at her home in San Diego, spoke briefly with ABC News and immediately expressed concern her son may be involved in the shooting death of at least 12 people overnight.

“You have the right person,” she said, apparently speaking on gut instinct. “I need to call the police… I need to fly out to Colorado.”

Everything in bold is not based on fact. For example, she never said he was the likely alleged culprit.

In this ABC report, from July 23rd, the mother clarifies her statements and ABC news adds:

Mosk [the ABC news reporter who contacted her] said today that he awoke Arlene Holmes and informed her that a man, he believed was her son had been arrested in Aurora and asked to confirm their relationship.

“You have to tell me what happened… You have to tell me what happened,” the woman on the phone said, according to Mosk. Mosk said he told her that ABC News had learned the 24-year-old had been identified by police as the lone suspect in the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado and that the details of the events were still taking shape.

“You have the right person,” was her response, he said. “I need to call the police. I need to fly to Colorado.”

I think it is fair to say, that even with a generous reading of the facts in the second story, that the ABC News interpretation of Holmes’ comments in the first story is very likely wrong.

I think reasonable people would read that exchange from someone who has been awoken and told horrible news and assume the lady meant that, ‘yes, you’ve reached the right person. I am that guy’s mom and I have to get busy.”

Now, of course, none takes away from the horrific acts allegedly committed by her son, but this type of reporting doesn’t help anyone and is the reason I take news reports with a grain of salt.

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